The best way for kids to learn a second language is to experience it. Games are a great way to “experience” a language and learn by doing.
Children perceive and remember information emotionally. When kids experience positive emotions, they are more engaged in the learning process and retain information longer. Furthermore, positive emotions are associated with fun.
The active use of games has a tremendous impact on helping children learn a 2nd language. Games make kids active participants in the learning process, while the pursuit of victory motivates them to learn more.
What type of games can we use to help kids learn a 2nd language? Here are 4 game categories that help build different skills in the 2nd language.
1. Communication-based games
These games foster a conversation or a dialogue around the theme. Role-playing is a good example: you are a restaurant owner and I am the customer. Playing with puppets or dolls and solving a mystery together is also an engaging game for kids.
2. Games that help with listening
Does the game help my child listen to good input in the second language. A video game with lots of comments in the 2nd language can be a good game. Our son Pablo likes soccer. We downloaded FIFA 2014 with French audio, which has lots of comments. Pablo retains the expressions in French because he is so immersed in the game.
3. Writing and spelling-based games
Learning how to write and spell words is way more fun as a game-based activity. Playing hangman is a good example to help with spelling in the 2nd language. For older kids, playing online multi-player games where players have to chat with each other is another good way to practice writing.
4. Games that encourage reading
For children that learn how to read in the second language, following written instructions to solve clues is very helpful. A treasure hunt can be a good way to instill that.
Do you use games to help kids learn a 2nd language? If so, which ones do you recommend?